The Weekly New Release Report for February 17, 2015 features four strong album releases, albums that touch different parts of Country music (and beyond) with equal amounts of grace and artistry. Glen Campbell's final single, the Grammy-winning "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" is featured on the soundtrack to the documentary film Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me while Aaron Watson's The Underdog makes a case for mainstream airplay while The Mavericks return with yet another cool record (recorded in MONO!)and bluegrass duo Darin and Brooke Aldridge give us Snapshots of their artistry.
Darin & Brooke Aldridge - Snapshots (Mountain Home Music Company)
The talented husband and wife duo blend bluegrass and traditional country with equal aplomb. They tear through classic bluegrass songs like “My Rose of Old Kentucky” and a rip-roaring Marty Stuart-penned Gospel opener “Get Up John” that blends Brooke’s soulful country twang with the traditional message. The choice to turn folk hero Gillian Welch’s “Annabelle” into a stunning bluegrass ballad is inspired as is the choice to cover Eddie Adcock’s “Let’s,” the classic Cash tune “Tennessee Flat Top Box” to the iconic pop standard “Let It Be Me.” Guests on the project include Sam Bush, Doyle Lawson and Ricky Skaggs. Both Darin and Brooke Aldridge could have a career as mainstream country singers if the mainstream allowed for naturally twangy voices to be heard more often. That being said, this is their sixth Bluegrass album and Snapshots is a wonderful listen thoroughout.
Glen Campbell - I’ll Be Me Soundtrack (Big Machine Records)
A collection of 10 wonderful songs by Glen Campbell, his daughter Ashley and The Band Perry, the soundtrack to the documentary film Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me is a stunning collection. From Glen Campbell’s Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (which bookends the collection with two versions) to Ashley Campbell’s “Remembering” and “Home Again,” this album is stunning. It also showcases how music can heal and unite, even for a family in the throws of losing their iconic father/husband to Alzheimer’s. “The Long Walk Home” is another ‘new’ Glen song featured here and it’s as good as “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.”
The Band Perry’s performance of “Gentle On My Mind” earned them their first Grammy Award and rightly so. It’s a great, no-frills take on Glen Campbell’s most-iconic song (his live version of “Wichita Lineman” is equally stunning, especially given how deep he was into Alzheimer’s by this performance). As great as all of these songs are (and Ashley Campbell is a revelation a la Kacey Musgraves), “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is clearly the calling card here as it’s the most tragically beautiful love song ever written and it deserves its place right there on the list of Glen Campbell’s most-iconic songs with “Gentle On My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman” and it is, as this album is, a fine health-induced conclusion on one of America’s most-cherished artists to ever put music to tape.
The Mavericks - MONO (The Valory Music Co.)
When they returned in 2013 with In Time, it was their first record as a band in a decade or so. Fortunately for us, the coolest band on the planet didn’t decide to wait another decade to come out with a follow-up. Instead, they continue the grove focused on In Time and enhance it with MONO, a record which is the kind of genre-blending record we’ve come to expect from The Mavericks through the years. There’s not a terrible song on the collection and they’ve sent singles to AAA radio (as country radio sadly won’t touch this project). “All Night Long” is the song they’re playing on late night TV the week of release and standouts like “What Am I Supposed to Do,” “The Only Question” and “Stories We Could Tell” are all great. The Mavericks simply make music that is enjoyable and they’re allowed to do so without any worries about radio airplay. What a novel concept. All this with the brilliantly recorded MONO (which was actually recorded in MONO and not Stereo).
Aaron Watson - The Underdog (Big Label/Thirty Tigers)
Perhaps the biggest star from Texas that fans in the general mainstream have yet to have heard of, Aaron Watson’s new album The Underdog showcases a man who is definitely at the top of his game with his 12th album project. Working with Keith Stegall as his co-producer, Watson sounds ready to break out in the mainstream with a collection of songs that are both traditional Aaron Watson songs and contemporary at the same time. “That Look,” the charting first single (which hit #1 in Texas), really should be a huge hit for Aaron Watson. “Wildfire” feels like the best Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, George Strait or Zac Brown Band song you’ve never heard before (which means it could do well on mainstream if supported enough). “Getaway Truck,” too sparkles like a mainstream hit while retaining Watson’s classic songwriting sensibility.
Basically what co-producer Keith Stegall brought to the record is an understanding of how to make mainstream records that still are country records (he’s done this with Sammy Kershaw, Zac Brown Band, Craig Campbell and Alan Jackson for years). The Underdog’s best songs, though, aren’t the radio-ready fare. They are the stunning “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song),” opening track “The Prayer,” “That’s Why God Loves Cowboys,” the best George Strait song George Strait’s never recorded (yet), and the beautiful title track, “The Underdog,” a song that only comes from being a parent to children and wanting them to chase their dreams. The latter one probably would be a great radio single too. What I’m saying here is that Aaron Watson is at a point now where the mainstream labels should want to take him in as a partner. He’s a huge, huge star in Texas and while he had opportunities as a younger man (listen to Fence Post to see why he didn’t follow them), now is the time for the rest of Country music to pay attention to one of it’s best underdogs, a man who makes great music with each album he releases.
Old Crow Medicine Show - Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer EP(ATO Records)
Everything America has grown to love about the originators of the "Wagon Wheel" hit and the Grammy-winning 2014 album Remedy is back on this newly released EP via ATO Records. There's a fun-loving John Prine-like sensibility to the title track while “I Done Wrong Blues” is just that old time string band doing what they do. “Mother Church” is a song for The Ryman Auditorium and The Grand Ole Opry, an institution the band is now a part of.
T. Graham Brown - Forever Changed (Mansion Entertainment/MRI/SonyRED)
A few weeks ago T. Graham Brown issued Forever Changed and it full of a baker’s dozen of soulful Gospel-flavored tracks like “From A Stronger Place,” “Shadow of Doubt,” “Power Of Love,” “Which Way To Pray” and “He’ll Take Care Of You,” which features Vince Gill. He also revisits his powerful hit “Wine Into Water,” the last song he hit the Top 40 with over a decade ago. T. Graham Brown’s career as a radio hit maker may be over but the man who found life and love once he got sober reflects his faith very nicely on Forever Changed.
Anita Stapleton - A Place In My Heart (Anita Hit Records)
The tralented traditional country singer runs through some classic country songs like the Gene Watson duet “Just Someone You Used To Know,” “Someone Had To Teach You,” “Old Heartaches,” “I’ll Miss Missing You” and “In My Baby’s Arms Again.” None of these songs will ever hear mainstream radio again (at least modern mainstream radio) but there’s nothing here that’s unenjoyable and for fans of traditional country music, the album is a downright standout.
Jay Taylor - Hold On EP (Independent)
He’s got vocal dexterity but that may not be a good thing as these five songs don’t showcase an artist that’s quite ready for primetime. Standouts include “The Green Dress Song” and the title track “Hold On,” a song that actually feels like it could play on SiriusXM’s “The Highway” as a “Highway Find” but it might not become anything more than that. Taylor has talent but he needs to focus as this feels more like a demo meant to land him somewhere than a cohesive record.
New Singles of Note:
Cam - “My Mistake” (Arista Nashville)
The single-named singer has a talent that is effervescent single requires. Hopefully it becomes a big radio hit. It's certainly got all that's required for people to enjoy the song with a great melody, a strong vocal and stellar production.
Jana Kramer - "I Got The Boy" (Elektra Records)
Kramer returns with follow-up to the Top 30 hit "Love" and instantly showcases her talent with heart-felt ballads. "I Got The Boy" is the kind of song that radio should want to eat up and it has a delicious message that tells of the real impact timing has on life. Kramer got the fun-loving boy but his now wife got the man ready to commit to love.